Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve

We've never been much for New Year's Eve... it's rarely exciting and it's a hassle to get around safely. Last year, we just stayed home in our comfies and enjoyed a nice dinner and each other's company. This year, we're doing the same, except it's a little fancier! We're going to dress up and I'm in the process of prepping our meal... can you tell I was inspired by the Barefoot Contessa??

Parker's Split Pea Soup: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/parkers-split-pea-soup-recipe/index.html
Parmesan Croutons: http://www.recipezaar.com/The-Barefoot-Contessas-Parmesan-Croutons-299026

Main Course:
Pan Seared Fillet Mignon with a Cabernet Sauce: http://megs-tastytreats.blogspot.com/2008/05/pan-seared-filet-mignon-with-cabernet.html
Mustard-Roasted Potatoes: http://myfoodtoday.blogspot.com/2007/02/mustard-roasted-potatoes.html
String Beans with Shallots: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/string-beans-with-shallots-recipe/index.html

Coconut Cake: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/coconut-cake-recipe/index.html

I'm most nervous about the cake and getting the coconut to stick... it's really the only course I can make in the morning, so I guess that's a good thing. I can always fall back on Betty Crocker, if it fails :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nesting Bowls

Now that I've spent 2 days in the kitchen, I have realized two things:

1. I need a double oven if I plan on baking this much again; and,
2. I love nesting bowls.

What is it about these that makes me love them so?? They are incredibly practical, easy to store, fun to use, and, if you purchase a good set, they're cute too. I have my green William Sonoma ones; a set of glass bowls that go so small, and a ceramic set from Crate and Barrel.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Expired Coupons??

One of my recent hobbies is coupon-ing (I can hear my brother laughing at me right now...). Slowly, but surely, I'm learning how to get good deals on the food we eat and the products we use (for example, $0.11 for a box of couscous, which Matt loves). Many of our local stores offer double and triple coupons, which adds up every week. I cut out every coupon I get, because I never know what's going to be on sale or what I'm going to need!

However, being just the two of us (and Hula), we don't exactly consume a lot of goods. What do we do with our left over coupons and coupons that we just don't need? I have four options that I'm learning to alternate between:

1. Stock-up on basics: Even if I don't need chicken broth, I'll use my soon-to-be-expired coupon and buy stock on sale. If I know that I'm actually going to use it soon, I'll stock up :)

2. Stock-up on items to donate: We like to give back to the community and participate in drives for those in need. When there is an amazing deal on products like soaps, toothpaste, canned food, diapers, etc, I purchase with my coupons and save the item(s) to donate. This way, we always have stock on hand and we can contribute to worthy causes while watching the budget :)

3. Send to friends: I have several friends with babies, and since we don't have kids yet, I send them my baby/kid related coupons. Even if they don't use them, I know that they have the potential to use them. I also send links to good online coupons to friends who I know will want to use them.

4. Send to military families overseas: The commissary stores on army bases accepts expired coupons up to 6 months past their expiration dates!! For families earning very little, coupons can make a big difference. Since I'm clipping anyway, it's an easy way for us to support our troops. If you would like to donate your coupons, go to http://www.ocpnet.org and follow their instructions for mailing coupons. This site sends coupons to a base of your choosing, and the coupons are put in a box at the front of the commissary for the shoppers. Military commissaries accept coupons 6 months past their expiration date as well as internet printed coupons. You can also send your coupons directly to military family/friends overseas!

If you have any creative ideas for old/irrelevant coupons, please let me know! Happy clipping :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Anniversary Dinner

Last night, Matt and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. I was SO excited to have a real kitchen, that I cooked us a three course dinner. Matt said that he'd love an Italian or French dinner. Since I didn't have the internet to help me, I went for Italian. I forgot how much I really enjoy cooking :) The key for me is lots of planning and lots of prep work. Here's what I made:

Martha Stewart's Tuscan Tomato Soup: I pureed the soup, thinned with light cream, and put a dollop of pesto on top. It's also good with a bit of sour cream mixed in.

Chicken, Garlic, and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta: I tried to make the cream sauce as healthy as possible, but the butter makes it a bit tricky :) I will probably double the amount of sun dried tomatoes next time. We loved this! http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Chicken-Garlic-and-Sundried-Tomato-Pasta/Detail.aspx

Tiramisu: I just used the BHG recipe; it was really tasty, but it didn't "present" very well. It looks nice when served on a plate, but I wouldn't want anyone to see it in the pan :) Also, you need about 8 more lady fingers than the recipe calls for. I made it with the liquor options, as I think it tastes better. We have a lot left over so I'm going to drop it by Matt's work today.

I was also SO excited to have a real dining table, that I took pictures of how I set it. Nothing special to it, but such a joy to have a dedicated eating space :) I wanted to use our wedding china, but we have about a dozen "formal dining" boxes full of fragile pieces individually wrapped with bubble wrap, taped, and wrapped in paper. I just didn't have the time! I did manage to use wine glasses we received for our wedding (thanks, Katie!) and some candle holders that I received at my bridal shower.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Pillow

Yesterday was my first sewing class, and I successfully completed my pillow!! Aren't you so proud of me!?!? I have enough yardage to make a second pillow, so I'm going to undertake that in a day or so. But, of course, I have to purchase all of the cutting supplies, which means another trip to JoAnn's :)

Like a child holding up a finger painting...

The pillow in all of it's glory!
Now that I have the pillow (and soon-to-be two pillows) I have no idea what to do with them... I wish we had our sofa!! I'm planning on taking a basic quilting class in January, so until then:
1. I'm going to practice threading/re-threading my machine on a (somewhat) regular basis.
2. I'm going to practice threading the bobbin on a (somewhat) regular basis.
3. I'm going to practice sewing a straight line on a (somewhat) regular basis.
If you know of any basic, beginner projects that would be good for me, please let me know!! If I can't find anything else, I'll be making 14"x14" pillows for months-on-end and everyone will be getting one for Christmas :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Barefoot Contessa

SIDE NOTE: Although only one person commented on the calendar post, it's been amazing to hear from others (by email and phone) about similar experiences. It seems like everyone has the same grievance. SO, if anyone is talented in the business world and wants a project... I think there is a market for the perfect calendar :)

When my parents decided to re-do their home, I was so lucky in receiving their discarded items. Among these treasures were a wealth of cookbooks, including a set of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks. My adorable sorority little sis, Lauren, is quite enamored with The Barefoot Contessa, so I have been pouring through the books eying recipe after recipe that I want to try. But, then it just goes on the shelf with all of the other cookbooks. When it comes around to picking my weekly recipes, I'm overwhelmed at the thought of looking through all of my cookbooks and picking out recipes we will enjoy.

SO, today I selected the 4 Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and flagged and labeled the recipes that interest me. To me, the great part is the labeling (the 1" wide post-it flags worked perfectly for this and our local dollar store has the generic brand for only $1). Simply by pulling the book off of the shelf, I'll be able to see in just a glance the selection of recipes in there. I've flagged recipes often, but these new, labeled flags will actually provide the info I need to make decisions. (Any yes, I know my pic is bad).

Note: I did not flag any of her desserts... they are all amazing and there would be no point in flagging every page!

Her cookbooks are truly beautiful, and she has great sections full of good information, such as how to make a schedule, or what to do with finicky eaters. The photos are incredible, but I do wish she had more. It's very, very difficult for me to select a recipe if I don't know what the final product is going to be. I must be a visual learner :)

In the future (when I'm whipping up yummy, pink applesauce and making beautiful hand-made cards), I want to have a spreadsheet database of recipes. I'm sure there must be some program out there that does this, but for now I'm happy with my Post-Its!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Husband Consumes Everything

Matt came home late from work the other night, so I heated up some soup for him. Yes, the bowl is about as big as his head and he ate everything. I loved it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Calendar Dilema

From monthly, to weekly, to daily... from mini, to desk, to wall, to virtual... I feel like I have tried nearly every calendar out there. My most recent attempt was Google calendar, but it just didn't feel right.

I like the idea of a virtual calendar, but I think I'm just one of those people that need to actually hold my the papers in my hands. But, it's not exactly convenient to carry around a big calendar. I refuse to even try in the wallet size systems again... there is no space! I have determined that I don't like the day-view calendars; I need more perspective. So, it comes down to a week view (which gives me more perspective but still not as much as I'd like) or a monthly view (which doesn't have enough room for writing and details).

Oh, the drama of it all!!!

I'm currently using a week-view calendar and I am missing the monthly view. I might have to learn how coordinate both :) I'd love to have an integrated space where I can plan errands, chores, shopping lists, etc. But, all of the calendars I've seen that incorporate that type of things hardly provide the necessary space to do that.

I obviously want to have my cake and eat it, too... Regardless of my calendar pipe-dreams, I will continue to search for that most perfect of calendar systems. If you happen to know of anything I'd like, feel free to let me know!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Being a Good Steward of My Time

Side Note: I haven't fallen off the domestic wagon... I have just misplaced the converter for my memory card, so I can't upload photos of my various projects (I have been busy organizing and decorating for Christmas). I think I'll have to break down and buy a new converter...

Now that I'm taking time off and focusing on being a house wife (which I am LOVING), I am trying to be more conscious of how I spend this so-called "free time". I'll be the first to admit that I love the extra rest I get each morning, but I'd like to think that most of time at home isn't so self-indulgent :) I'm getting involved with various non-profits and trying to develop skills like crafting and sewing (much harder than they sound), and I like to think I'm getting better about keeping a clean and organized home. I like Matt coming home to a welcoming, comfortable space :) I am also learning about comparison shopping and getting good deals, which is helping the budget!

It is a challenge, though! I'm an infamous procrastinator (just ask my college roomie, Kim) and sometimes I hurriedly put the house together just before Matt gets home. If anyone has any encouraging stories or useful strategies, I'd love to know!

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Love/Hate Relationship With Martha

I hate Martha Stewart, and I love her.

Whenever I make a recipe from her book, it requires either:

a) some weird ingredient that I cannot find in the surrounding 50 miles;

b) some weird technique that require me watching online videos for 20 minutes just to sort-of understand it; and/or

c) a new, funky piece of equipment that I will never, ever use again.

But, does any of this stop me?? Not really- I still want to do it all. I start looking around her site and 2 hours later I'm trying to figure out how to dry corn-husks ,or I'm convinced that I too can make a leaf-lattice pie crust. Regardless, she is getting more accessible... and I'm getting more realistic. I've set up my online profile at her site and have more projects/recipes than I know what to do with. But, here's just a taste of what's my Martha List:


Tex-Mex Chicken Stew

Chicken with Ginger

Gingerbread Snowflakes


Sewing on Paper

Monogrammed Boxes

I also get her daily emails about cookies, organizing, crafts, etc (thanks, Lara!) and even though I won't do even 10% of them, it's a great inspiration to do something creative. Even her emails look cute...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Making Cards

First off, thanks for all of the apple sauce recipes!! I now want to un-freeze all of apples and try again- this time on the stove top. I tasted my apple sauce again yesterday- way too much cinnamon. So, that'll be another adjustment!

I received such a beautiful, hand-made thank you card from my sweet friend, Juliet last week! The picture below does not do it justice, but she did so well mixing colors, themes, and textures. It isn't surprising, of course- Juliet is a genius with projects like this! So after a nice trip to Michael's, I decided to give card making a try...

Juliet's card: my inspiration!

I'd like to say that the picture doesn't do wonderful things for this first-ditch effort... the colors do look better in person. But, it's obvious I have a lot to learn.

This one turned out better... again, the colors didn't translate well in the picture. I like the ribbon aspect, so I may need to get some more ribbon options :)

I noticed that I really need a paper cutter and ruler- I cannot cut straight lines!! I think that I will also get a card making kit; it'll provide all of the coordinating elements and then I just to put it together. I think I was too ambitious in doing everything without any guidance. Hopefully I'll collect a good amount of papers, ribbons, stamps, etc over the next few months and can learn how to blend together. Once I get the hang of this card-making thing, I'll be sure to post some cute ones so you can see my progress :)
If you have experience in making cards, feel free to pass on tips!! I'm looking for all of the help I can get.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Home Made Apple Sauce

It was a first for me, yesterday- I made home made apple sauce!! I had lots of left over apples and while I froze about 8 cups of sliced apples (for breads, pies, etc), I decided to use 6 of the small ones for apple sauce. I made it in a crockpot, so the method is a bit untraditional. But, it made our cottage smell so yummy for hours and hours while it cooked. Here is a link to recipe:

What I Did:
I chose this recipe because it was simple, straight-forward, and only had 1T of sugar in it. I used bottled lemon juice and 6 small apples, in leiu of 4 large apples. To mash the apples, I used my potato masher and had excellent results. It made about 2 cups of apple sauce, which we will eat through the week. Apple sauce is also easy to freeze (and I've heard it can last years), so if you have a lot of apples or little kiddos, apple sauce could be a good idea.

What I Learned:
If I could do it over again, I would use 2 more small apples. There was a bit too much liquid left after cooking. Also, the apple sauce is very orange, and I don't know why! Maybe the cinnamon I used dyed everything?? The apple sauce is good, but it's missing a flavor... not quite sure what it is.

If you happen to have a good apple sauce recipe, please let me know!!

My First Sewing Machine

It came in the mail yesterday (yea for sales on Amazon.com) and while I have no idea how to plug it in (much less use it), I am so, so excited to finally learn how to sew! I am taking a Beginner's Machine class in a few weeks where I will make a 14"x14" pillow.

After about 45 minutes in JoAnn's Fabrics, I finally picked this snowflake print for my pillow.

I was shocked at how much sewing boxes were (only $30, but still... that seems like a lot for a box...), so I'm just using an extra box we had at home. I don't have a lot of supplies, so it works well for now! Not only do I have all of these supplies, but I actually know what they're called!! And, in just a few weeks, I'll actually know how to use them :)

Am I Really This Bored??

I have decided to start a new blog, in addition to The Franck Files. This way, I have a dedicated space to chronicle my life as I become a home maker. It will include new recipes, projects, and all of the successes and failures I endure in the process. Feel free to check back and laugh!